Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Saturday List #176 - My Top Ten Culinary Moments in the London Borough of Barnet

Have you ever tasted something and simply gone wow! As I've lived in Mill Hill for nearly all of my life, I've had some amazing culinary moments in and around the Borough. I'd say some were life changing. I thought I'd try and list them in as near to chronological order as possible.

1. Tonibell Ice Cream - Burnt Oak. This was probably the first time I realised just how good food could make you feel. It was a roasting hot Saturday, my Dad returned from MacMetals for lunch and my mum informed him he'd have to look after me in the afternoon as she was busy. This meant a trip down to Bunns Lane Works to watch him mend motors. This to me was bliss. He'd set me menial tasks like sorting out screws and washers. When we left he turned down to Burnt Oak, announcing he had a special treat. We went to the Tonibell ice cream shop and he ordered me a 99 with flake and raspberry sauce. I had never tasted such pleasure. When we returned, my siblings were so jealous. I miss the old man and I regret that I can't take my kids to Tonibell.

2. The Chinese restaurant on Burnt Oak Broadway. In the 1960's our big family treat was going out for "chinese nosh". The order was always the same, scampi, spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, water chestnuts, special fried rice and some gloopy soup. Pudding was lychees with ice cream. It was the best. The restaurant had the paper lantern type lampshades and was decorated with images of paddy fields and oriental scenes. I considered this like the Tardis, transporting you from Burnt Oak to a place unimaginable. The food was delicious. I still love a good chines, but you simply cannot get proper spring rolls anymore.

3. The barbecue stall at St Josephs College Garden Fete. I always liked a sausage and a burger. Sadly in our house, this meant Tesco's own brand sausages and Birds Eye burgers, which taste of the square root of nothing. My Mum was always keen to balance the household budget. My Dad took the opposite view and would buy the finest steaks, but as an Aussie he held British meat in contempt. That was until a certain Garden Fete at St Josephs College in Mill Hill. Someone organised a barbecue stall selling burgers and sausages. These were most definitely not Tesco's own brand. They were the first proper sausages and burgers I'd ever tasted. Furthermore I'd never tasted barbeque food before. It was a revelation. To this day, a good barbie is something I love, but it all stemmed from that. Oddly, my Dad never barbecued anything. He preferred to cook on an electric hob and incinerate all meat.

4. The Mill Hill Tandoori. I can remember when this opened. My Dad was a well travelled man and loved Indian food. My Mum hated it. Therefore, we didn't go for a couple of years. Then my Mum went away with her sister and so my Dad took me out for a curry. I didn't know what any of the dishes were, He said "be careful, it's very spicy". At his recommendation, I started with a Chicken Tikka and had a Lamb Korma and some pilau rice. I was blown away, food had never tasted like this. It became a tradition that when Mum went away, we'd have a curry. I still go far too often.

Image result for Katarina restaurant 1960 mill hill
La Katarina - Mill hill
5. La Katarina, Mill Hill. Where Pizza Express is situated, there used to be La Katarina restaurant. It was my Dad's restaurant of choice for birthdays, my Mum disliked it because she thought it was "expensive". It was always steaks, which were frazzeled to perfection for my Dad. He liked them burnt to death. But what we loved was the puddings. The Crepe Suzettes were amazing. As a kid, the fact they had alcohol made them a bit naughty and the fact that they were set on fire appealed to the pyromaniac in me. They were delicious. My father always loved anything involving fires and explosives. I don't suppose too many people's Dads taught them to make Nitroglycerene in the shed. It is amazing we all survived!

6. The Perfect Pizza, Edgware. The first five choices are ones guided by my parent. When I got to 15, I started to venture out on my own. I soon discovered that after beers, food is a necessity. Edgware was a favoured haunt, not least as the Beehive was packed with Au Pair's. Around the corner was The Perfect Pizza. I vividly remember them launching a new flavour - The Hawaiian, they gave us all a free slice. It was a pizza with Ham and Pineapple. It was the most glorious end to an evening in the Beehive. I soon twigged that the offer of a post pub Pizza was a great way to persuade the Au Pairs to come back for a chat. As I don't do Dairy and the Perfect Pizza has long gone, that is something that I do miss.

7. Valentino's, Hendon. This little family run restaurant has been a regular stopping off point for me over the years. For many years, I'd have baked mushrooms to start and Penne Arrabiata for a main. Well priced and truly delicious. More recently I have the King prawns in Garlic. Amazing.

8.  Day of The Raj, Mill Hill. Whilst I've always loved the Mill Hill Tandoori, for many years, the Broadway was also blessed with The Day of The Raj. They do the most amazing Lobster Sizzler. They still do Take Away deliveries, but it should be sampled in a restaurant with a pint of Cobra!

9. Alki's Kebabs, Colindale. For many years, a regular stop off for us was Alki's Kebabs in Colindale. I will never forget the first Kebab I ever purchased was from there. My eldest Brother Laurie recommended it. We were teenagers and my good friend, who we called Derm The Sperm, had just passed his driving test. We all piled in his car and ordered large Chicken Shish kebabs, as recommended by Laurie. They were glorious! These days, Cobains Kebabs in The Broadway are great, with an amazing Felafel for my veggie wife to boot!

10. My back Garden. I do a mean Barbie, even if I say so myself. I'm always on the lookout for new dishes. A few faves are Choriso Sausage skewers (sausages from Gerards Boucherie on Daws Lane), Haloumi cheese skewers and grilled pineapple. Oh and of course, steaks, burgers, sausages and kebabs. I rather like grilled Sardines in lemon marinade, if it's sunny, we'll be doing that on Monday!

Enjoy the weekend.

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